Fellsmere Council approves relaxing some, not all rules for Planning, Zoning board

FELLSMERE – The Fellsmere City Council is willing to allow non-property owners serve on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, but they must still live within the city’s limits.

The council, however, is unwilling at this point to further open up membership on the board, despite city staff’s recommendation.

Community Development Director Mark Mathes recommended the Fellsmere City Council relax its requirements for membership on the commission, noting that it has been challenging finding enough qualified and interested residents to serve.

He suggested the council open membership to qualified Fellsmere electors – those who have lived in the city for six months and one day – who don’t necessarily have to own property within the city. He also recommended allowing residents who live just outside the city in the ranchette acreage to serve on the board.

“I don’t think the second option is good at all,” Mayor Susan Adams said of opening membership to non-city residents.

Councilwoman Sara Savage said she would support opening membership to those who own property – be it residential or commercial – within the city but don’t live in the city.

Adams also opposed that suggestion, explaining that members of the Planning and Zoning Commission should have the residents’ best interests at heart, and those who don’t live in the city might not have that focus.

Adams said she could support making the requirements for serving on the planning board mirror that of being a council member – a qualified elector living within the city, adding that she did not see a reason for the commission to have more stringent membership requirements than that of city council.

Mathes suggested a compromise of sorts that helps to open up membership but not create an opportunity for a commission of all non-property owners. A majority of the 5-member board – three members – must adhere to the current membership requirements of being both a qualified elector and owning property within the city. Two others, though, could be qualified electors who rent, rather than own, their home in the city.

“I don’t think you’re going to have much luck either way,” Savage said of attracting residents to serve on the commission.

The Fellsmere City Council could decide at a later date to further modify the membership requirements if this current change fails to attract more interest.

Anyone interested in serving on the Fellsmere Planning and Zoning Commission is encouraged to contact City Clerk Debbie Krages, (772) 646-6301, for more information.

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